October 13, 2020 MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Myra McKenzie-Harris

Myra L. McKenzie-Harris is a Senior Associate Counsel II in the Employment Division of the Walmart Legal Department in Bentonville, Arkansas. Prior to joining Walmart in 2007, Ms. McKenzie-Harris was an attorney with the Columbus, Ohio office of Porter Wright, where she represented universities, municipalities, and corporations in state and federal employment law administrative, alternative dispute resolution, and litigation matters.

A new member of the Section, Ms. McKenzie-Harris has quickly become active in CRSJ and currently chairs the 20-21 CRSJ Special Initiatives Task Force, convened by CRSJ Section Chair Angela J. Scott to oversee her many bar year plans. 

 Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?

I am originally from southeast Louisiana. In terms of how my upbringing has influenced the things I’m passionate about, I have a few thoughts on that topic. First, my parents are both from the south and attended segregated schools through high school. My father attended a historically Black university for his undergraduate studies, but my mother went to a predominantly white institution for her undergraduate studies.  Their experiences in segregated schools and their experiences as they completed their undergraduate and graduate work influenced the way they reared my sisters and me.  Second, and related, my parents were children of the 1960s. They ingrained in me a deep-seated interest in the equal application of the law for all, the pursuit of racial equity, and justice for all people. I determined at the age of eight I wanted to become a lawyer – – just like Thurgood Marshall. Many years later, I did just that. While I’ve spent the vast majority of my time as a lawyer working as defense counsel for large corporations, my interest in protecting the rights of people, especially racial minorities, persists.

What drives you?

I am driven by an unending desire to be excellent in all that I do. I am passionate about conceiving of ideas and seeing them to fruition.  Being known as a good person, an excellent lawyer, and a great wife and mother drives me.

What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?

Despite being very business-minded, I am not serious all the time. 😊

I enjoy a good joke, a wonderful meal, and an excellent movie from time to time. If you want to see me smile, ask me about my children.

When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?

The pursuit of excellence in all things and to reflect a clearly demonstrated record of ensuring that people are treated fairly in the workplace and beyond.

What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?

Again, my work centers on ensuring that people are treated equitably and fairly in the workplace. I work on projects and address issues related to this topic every day. I care about it most because I believe that the workplace is a notable area in everyday life where people are being overtly and covertly discriminated against on the basis of their skin color and race

What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?

A false belief that America is a post-racial society. The news, recorded instances of police brutality, grand jury findings, and social media videos tell us otherwise. Unfortunately, systemic racism is alive and well in this country. That is part of why I enjoy the work of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and serving as an At Large Delegate in the ABA House of Delegates where we are grappling with this issue and others focused on bias eradication. I’m also proud to work for a company whose CEO has committed millions of dollars to advancing racial equity and justice in this country.

In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?

In my work with the ABA and outside the ABA, I find that national civil rights organizations, Black Greek letter organizations, young lawyer organizations, and Bars of color are addressing these issues in parallel or as partners.

What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?

Currently, in the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, I serve as the leader of Section Chair Angela Scott’s 2020-2021 Task Force focused on civil rights and social justice issues. We are raising awareness around and providing resources related to voting rights, other civil rights, and lawyer pro bono opportunities.  Within this body of work is a voting rights toolkit that will provide a myriad of resources to the public, ABA members, and civil rights organizations. As we all know, much is at stake in our 2020 federal elections. I am most proud of the Section’s commitment to ensuring that all individuals are aware of their right to vote, understand how to utilize their right to vote, and are not thwarted from exercising their right to vote. Our toolkit will bring that commitment to life.